Lesson 4: The Purpose of Priesthood Ordinances

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, (2000), 27–40


The purpose of this lesson is to increase our understanding of priesthood ordinances and their importance in our lives.

Introduction

“We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (Articles of Faith 1:3).

In the Church the word ordinances usually refers to rites and ceremonies that the Lord has given us for our salvation, guidance, and comfort (see Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 548–49). These ordinances are physical actions that symbolize spiritual experiences. By taking part in them we receive the spiritual power we need to change our lives. For example, baptism represents, among other things, a washing away of sins following true repentance.

Heavenly Father requires that the ordinances of the gospel be performed by men who hold the proper priesthood authority. Only when an ordinance is performed by this authority will our Father in Heaven approve it.

There are two types of priesthood ordinances: those necessary for exaltation and those performed for our comfort and guidance.

Ordinances Necessary for Exaltation

President Wilford Woodruff said: “No [one] will receive of the celestial glory except it be through the ordinances of the House of God” (in Journal of Discourses, 19:361; see also D&C 84:20–22). Ordinances that are necessary for us to return to Heavenly Father include baptism, confirmation, the sacrament, conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood (for brethren), the temple endowment, and temple marriage.

  • Display a poster of the following list, or refer to the information on the chalkboard:

    Ordinances Necessary for Exaltation

    1. 1.

      Baptism

    2. 2.

      Confirmation

    3. 3.

      The sacrament

    4. 4.

      Conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood (for men)

    5. 5.

      The temple endowment

    6. 6.

      Temple marriage

Baptism

  • Show visual 4-a, “Baptism is the first ordinance of the gospel.”

  • Read John 3:3–5. What ordinance is mentioned in this scripture? (Baptism of the water and of the Spirit, or the Holy Ghost)

Baptism is the first ordinance we must receive if we are to return to live with our Heavenly Father. To live with Him we must be spiritually clean and worthy. Through repentance and baptism we are forgiven of our sins and become pure enough to live in the Lord’s presence. (See Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, lesson 29, “Baptism, a Continuing Covenant.”)

Being baptized is like beginning a new life. When we are baptized we are placed under the water. The scriptures compare this to burying, or leaving behind, our old self (see Romans 6:4; Mosiah 18:14; D&C 76:51).

When we come out of the water we are washed clean of sin. With our past sins washed away, we receive greater spiritual power to change our lives and become more like Heavenly Father.

  • Invite a few class members to share how baptism has affected their lives.

Confirmation

After we are baptized we receive the ordinance of confirmation. In this ordinance, men who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood lay their hands on our heads and (1) confirm us members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and (2) bestow on us the gift of the Holy Ghost, also called the “baptism of fire” (2 Nephi 31:13).

  • Show visual 4-b, “Bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost is a Melchizedek Priesthood ordinance.”

Joseph Smith said: “The baptism of water, without the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost attending it, is of no use; they are necessarily and inseparably connected. An individual must be born of water and the Spirit in order to get into the kingdom of God” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 360).

  • What advantages are we given with the gift of the Holy Ghost?

The gift of the Holy Ghost gives us the right, through our faith, to have the Holy Ghost as our guide. The Holy Ghost helps us obey the laws, principles, and ordinances of the gospel. He bears witness of the Father and the Son (see 3 Nephi 28:11), shows things to come (see John 16:13), brings things to our remembrance (see John 14:26), and teaches us the truth of all things (see Moroni 10:5). (See Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood, Part A, lesson 30, “The Gift of the Holy Ghost.”)

  • Invite a few class members to share how the Holy Ghost has influenced their lives.

The Sacrament

The ordinance of the sacrament reminds us of the promises we made when we were baptized. We renew our baptismal covenant by partaking of the sacrament. As we partake of the bread and water, we remember our Savior’s life and His sacrifice. We remember our promise to follow Him. When taken worthily, the sacrament is a source of spiritual strength. It helps us develop greater power to keep the commandments. With sincere repentance it helps cleanse us of the sins we commit after baptism.

  • How can we make the sacrament more meaningful in our lives?

Conferral of the Melchizedek Priesthood

  • Show visual 4-c, “To become exalted, men must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood.”

Worthy adult male members of the Church should have the Melchizedek Priesthood conferred on them and be ordained to an office in that priesthood. This priesthood allows a man to receive the power and authority of God. It becomes a source of knowledge for him, helping him understand spiritual things. With it he can be authorized to perform the ordinances of salvation for other people, both living and dead.

A woman can receive the blessings of the Melchizedek Priesthood by receiving the ordinances of the gospel and by being married to a righteous priesthood holder. The blessings that come into a home when a man magnifies his priesthood affect his wife as much as they affect him. Perhaps the most important way a woman participates in the blessings of the priesthood is by receiving her endowment and being married in the temple.

The Temple Endowment

The endowment is a sacred ordinance performed only in the temple. President Brigham Young said, “Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation” (in Journal of Discourses, 2:31).

The temple endowment teaches us many things that we must know and do in order to return to our Father in Heaven. During the endowment we also promise the Lord to obey the laws of sacrifice and chastity and to be willing to give everything we have to help in His work. Because these promises are so sacred, we receive the endowment only after we have shown diligence in keeping Heavenly Father’s commandments. To remind us of these promises, we are given a sacred garment to wear.

  • How does receiving this ordinance help us return to Heavenly Father?

Temple Marriage

The ordinance of temple marriage is also necessary for us to become like our Father in Heaven. Temple marriage makes it possible for us to have eternal families. When we receive this ordinance worthily and keep the covenants we make, our families will be blessed to live together throughout eternity. Parents should teach children reverence for the temple and prepare them for temple marriage.

Recounting his return to full activity in the Church, one brother explained the importance of a temple marriage to his family:

“One of our lessons [in our branch’s institute class] was on temple marriage and vicarious work for the dead. One night soon after, I dreamed that I saw my uncle, who had died nineteen years before, and my stepfather, who had also passed away. They seemed to want something from me. I felt something whisper to me that I must go to the temple, that temple marriage is a commandment of God.

“When I awoke, I knelt down and asked Heavenly Father to permit us to go. Then, wanting to strengthen my resolve, I took out a piece of paper and wrote down the prayer I had just offered. ‘Heavenly Father,’ I wrote, ‘if it is thy will, I ask thee to let me go to the temple with my wife, Ceci, and my children, Diego and Adrianita.’ I awoke my wife and told her what I had done. She cried and hugged me. She knew how hard this goal would be to reach.

“Since we lived in Ambato, Ecuador, the nearest temple was across national boundaries in Lima, Peru. A trip there would involve a lot of paperwork, a thirty-six-hour bus ride, and real economic sacrifice. It would be hard on our children, who had never traveled and were very active. But we were strengthened in our resolve when we received our patriarchal blessings.

“On 20 May 1987, my wife, my daughter, my son, and I finally saw the temple. There was the figure of the angel Moroni, facing heaven from one of the towers. What joy we felt as my wife and I received our endowments and were sealed to our children for eternity! Then we did vicarious ordinance work for our loved ones” (Vicente Muñoz Ulloa, “Our Return to Full Activity,” Tambuli, Sept. 1994, 22).

  • Have a class member read Doctrine and Covenants 131:1–4. According to this scripture, why is it essential to be married in the temple?

  • How does knowing that your marriage can be eternal make a difference in your marriage and your other family relationships?

Ordinances for Comfort and Guidance

The Lord has given many priesthood ordinances that we may receive or perform for guidance and comfort. These include the naming and blessing of children, administering to the sick, patriarchal blessings, father’s blessings, blessings of guidance and comfort, and dedication of graves.

  • Display a poster of the following list, or refer to the information on the chalkboard:

    Ordinances for Comfort and Guidance

    1. 1.

      Naming and blessing of children

    2. 2.

      Administering to the sick

    3. 3.

      Patriarchal blessings

    4. 4.

      Father’s blessings

    5. 5.

      Blessings of guidance and comfort

    6. 6.

      Dedication of graves

Naming and Blessing of Children

  • Show visual 4-e, “Infants are usually named and blessed in testimony meeting.”

Children are usually given a name and blessing in a fast and testimony meeting. This ordinance is performed by someone who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood, preferably the father (see D&C 20:70).

After blessing his baby son, a new father spoke about this experience in his testimony. He said: “I am very touched this afternoon. When I stood to bless Mark I wasn’t sure what I was going to say, though I did have a few things in mind. But when I actually held him in my hands and began the prayer, impressions began crowding in on my mind. I wasn’t left on my own to give my son a blessing: the Lord inspired me through the power of the Holy Ghost to know what to say” (Jay A. Parry, “Miracles Today?” Ensign, Jan. 1978, 53).

  • Invite a few class members who have performed this ordinance to share their feelings about it.

Administering to the Sick

  • Show visual 4-f, “Faithful elders have the power to give the sick a blessing of health.”

Just as Jesus blessed the sick, faithful Melchizedek Priesthood holders have the power to bless and heal the sick. Brethren who administer to the sick should seek to know and express the will of the Lord in the blessing (see D&C 42:43–48).

  • Invite a few class members to share briefly their experiences with administering to the sick.

Patriarchal Blessings

Patriarchal blessings are inspired blessings given to worthy Church members by ordained patriarchs. These blessings give a person direction and counsel from the Lord. They also reveal the person’s lineage in the royal house of Israel. The Church records and preserves patriarchal blessings given by ordained patriarchs. These blessings are personal and sacred and should not be made public.

Father’s Blessings

A father who holds the Melchizedek Priesthood may give father’s blessings to his children. These blessings may be especially helpful when a child goes to school, goes on a mission, gets married, enters military service, or faces special challenges. A family may record a father’s blessing for family records, but it is not preserved in Church records.

Blessings of Guidance and Comfort

A blessing of guidance and comfort may be given by a husband, bishop, branch president, home teacher, or other Melchizedek Priesthood holder. These blessings are similar to father’s blessings. They help individuals prepare for special times or overcome problems that require special help from our Heavenly Father.

  • Invite a few class members to share briefly their experiences with giving father’s blessings and other blessings of guidance and comfort.

Dedications of Graves

The dedication of graves is performed by a Melchizedek Priesthood holder. The dedicatory prayer usually consecrates the burial plot as the resting place of the deceased, prays that the place will be hallowed and protected until the Resurrection (where appropriate), includes words of comfort for the family of the deceased, and includes other thoughts as the Spirit directs.

Conclusion

Heavenly Father has given priesthood ordinances to bless us. These ordinances are accompanied by great spiritual power that helps us become more like Heavenly Father and prepare to return to Him.

To be accepted by God, these ordinances must be performed by the proper priesthood authority. President Lorenzo Snow said: “There is but one way by which exaltation and glory can be secured. We have to be baptized for the remission of sins and have hands laid upon us for the reception of the Holy Ghost. These and other ordinances are absolutely necessary for exaltation and glory” (Millennial Star, 27 June 1895, 405).

We should remember that the promised blessings associated with any ordinance are realized only through righteous living.

Challenge

Make specific plans to receive all the ordinances necessary for exaltation. Live worthy to administer priesthood ordinances for others. Plan to make a special, sacred occasion of each ordinance performed for members of your family.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Prepare the posters suggested in the lesson, or write the information on the chalkboard.

  2. 2.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.

Note: Do not go into detail about how to perform the ordinances. This information is given in lesson 5.